Villa 0-0 Sunderland report: Stalemate as Duke watches on
Villa were graced by the presence of HRH the Duke of Cambridge but failed to produce a Royal Command performance against bottom-of-the-table Sunderland.
Prince William's first visit to Villa Park ended goalless as Villa struggled in vain to break down a side who had lost their previous five away matches.
Although Paul Lambert's men enjoyed territorial supremacy, they were unable to make the vital breakthrough - and the Black Cats had the two best chances.
Emanuele Giaccherini somehow put the ball over from two yards when it looked impossible to miss, while Fabio Borini hit the bar with a second half header.
A lot of passes went astray as both sides struggled to settle in the early stages, although Gabby Agbonlahor headed wide at the far post following Fabian Delph's cross from the right.
Agbonlahor also tested keeper Vito Mannone with a low shot after Andi Weimann had dispossessed Sung-Yueng Ki to create the opportunity.
The visitors responded with an Andrea Dossena shot which went into the side netting, while former Villa midfielder Craig Gardner got in front of Brad Guzan following a Dossena through ball to stab the ball wide.
Villa were also caught napping by a quickly-taken Sunderland corner on the right, and although the danger passed momentarily, there was huge relief when Ki's follow-up cross evaded everyone in the penalty area.
It was certainly proving to be hard-going for Lambert's side, but in the 29th minute they might have been ahead when a move involving Weimann, Karim El Ahmadi and Ashley Westwood ended with Christian Benteke sending a hurried right-foot effort over the bar.
Delph had the crowd on their feet with a forceful 36th-minute run before unleashing a tremendous drive with the outside of his left foot from 25 yards. Unfortunately the ball was always going away from goal, but as Villa maintained the momentum Westwood's fierce drive was blocked in a crowded penalty area following another excellent build-up.
Gardner had the ball in the net five minutes before half-time, although a linesman's flag was already raised for offside, but there was a real let-off when Giaccherini somehow scooped the ball over from two yards. He looked offside but there was no flag on this occasion so Villa were more than happy to be level at the interval.
There was a more purposeful start to the second half, though, Agbonlahor moving on to Benteke's fine crossfield pass to cut in from the right and unleash a fierce angled drive which Mannone pushed behind for a corner.
In the 53rd minute Agbonlahor charged through the middle before laying off a neat pass to Weimann. Neither the Austrian nor El Ahmadi were able to capitalise before Westwood tried his lucked with a 25-yard sidefoot shot which Mannone saved comfortably.
El Ahmadi then fired narrowly off target from the edge of the area, although Borini was desperately unlucky not to put the visitors ahead in the 66th minute when his header beat Guzan but hit the bar.
As Villa continued their search for a breakthough, sub Aleksandar Tonev had a long-range effort saved by Mannone before Delph shot well off target.
Villa: Guzan; Bacuna, Vlaar, Clark, Luna; El Ahmadi (Tonev 71), Westwood, Delph; Weimann (Albrighton 71), Benteke, (Kozak 85), Agbonlahor. Unused subs: Steer, Baker, Sylla, Lowton.
Sunderland: Mannone; Bardsley, O'Shea, Brown, Dossena (Celutstka 84); Larsson, Giaccherini, Ki, Gardner (Cloback 76), Borini (Johnson 76); Fletcher. Unused subs: Pickford, Altidore, Roberge, Cattermole.
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